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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1756-1791. Austrian composer. The meteoric and tragic career of this unique musician began in Salzburg, where his father Leopold was court composer to the ruling archbishop. Taught by his father, and briefly by several outstanding musicians encountered during his childhood travels to the leading musical centers of Europe, Mozart learned to compose with a rapidity and sureness of technique that are almost beyond comprehension. Much of his childhood and youth was spent in musical tours planned by his ambitious father. In his later teens and early twenties he wrote much church music in the classical symphonic style that has since been looked upon as frivolous. As with the similar music of Haydn,* recent criticism has tended to judge it on its true musical merit rather than according to nineteenth-century canons of churchly propriety. In 1782 Mozart's relations with the archbishop, Count von Colloredo, reached an impasse, and he moved to Vienna, where his inability to obtain a secure income and the attendant worry and debt contributed to shorten his amazingly productive life.

A number of works written before leaving Salzburg, i.e., the “Coronation” Mass, the two vesper services, the Miseracordias Domini, and the “Munich” Kyrie, exhibit a depth and richness seemingly beyond a youth of twenty. Only three sacred works were written after he left Salzburg: the unfinished Mass in C minor, the exquisite miniature Ave Verum, and the Requiem, which others finished after his death. It can only be wished that circumstances had offered him an inducement to write more church music in his full maturity, when these few examples suggest what riches in this form he might have left to posterity along with his incomparable instrumental works and operas.

See H.C. Robbins Landon and D. Mitchell (eds.), The Mozart Companion (1956).